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Phase II findings from the National Summer Learning and Enrichment Study explore how SEAs approached summer

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Phase II findings from the National Summer Learning and Enrichment Study explore how SEAs approached summer

Researchers at Westat released the second batch of findings from the National Summer Learning & Enrichment Study. The Wallace Foundation is supporting the study. This release is the second in a series of three reports taking a closer look at summer learning in 2021 from the perspective of state and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs).

This report takes a closer look at SEAs across the country and how they approached summer learning programs in 2021. Researchers conducted interviews with individuals at 37 different SEAs and reviewed all 51 SEA American Rescue Plan (ARP) spending plans. All SEAs were required to allocate 1 percent of their ARP funds to “support evidence-based summer enrichment programming,” which resulted in more than $1.2 billion for summer programming nationwide. Big takeaways from the second report include:

  • Many states used grant programs to give out their summer ARP dollars, but timing proved to be a challenge for summer 2021
     
    • A majority of SEAs (71 percent) used grant programs to disburse their 1 percent summer learning allocation. Of these states, researchers classified 44 percent of these programs as competitive, 22 percent were based on a universal formula (e.g. were divided based on district enrollment numbers), 11 percent matched district funds, and 22 percent had no clear funding basis.
       
      • Some states used an outside vendor to create, manage, and oversee the grant program: three states used a statewide afterschool network and one state used an out-of-school network for this process.
         
    • Nearly half (46 percent) of states gave funding to districts, but nearly 1 in 3 (32 percent) states gave funding to both districts and community-based organizations (CBOs), and more than 1 in 5 (22 percent) distributed funds to CBOs only.
       
    • Though funding was earmarked for summer 2021, only seven state plans were approved by the Department of Education by July 2021, meaning that a majority of states did not have access to ESSER III funds for summer.
       
  • Pre-existing partnerships had the upper hand when SEAs were planning for summer programming in 2021.
     
    • Nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) of the 37 states interviewed shared they worked with partners they already had relationships with, almost 1 in 5 states (16 percent) sought out new partnerships, nearly 1 in 10 (8 percent) states used pre-existing and new partnerships, almost 1 in 4 (24 percent) states didn’t work with any partners, and more than 1 in 5 (14 percent) of states did not know if partners were involved.
       
    • Partners included local nonprofits, municipal and state agencies, technical assistance centers, professional associations or networks (including the Afterschool Alliance), institutes of higher education, and technical assistance centers.
       
  • Top state priorities for summer programming included academics and social-emotional learning, but some districts pushed back on involvement from the state
     
    • More than 3 in 4 SEA’s asked districts to include social-emotional elements (78 percent) in their summer programs, more than 2 in 5 (42 percent) requested districts focus on academics, and more than 1 in 10 (14 percent) asked LEAs to deliver programming to specific grade levels.
       
    • As they considered summer programming after 2021, eight states made legislative changes around summer learning including “passing new policies related to how funding is awarded, program eligibility, and program design.”
       
    • However, 16 SEAs shared that their authority was limited due to local control policy environments, where there are policy limitations on the requirements they were able to impose on the districts. As a result, these states were not in the driver's seat concerning decision-making around summer learning in districts.
       
  • A majority of states went beyond fiscal monitoring requirements to evaluate the impact of ARP funds on summer learning
     
    • More than 3 in 4 interviewees (78 percent) said their state went above and beyond these requirements, and required additional data including further details about students served, and outcomes from programming.
       
    • Nearly 2 in 3 states (62 percent) interviewed said they were planning to increase data collection and evaluation efforts moving forward.

The final comprehensive Westat report on the National Summer Learning and Enrichment Study will be released in the spring of  2024 and will include findings from a survey of districts, SEA and district ARP plans, and district and state interviews. Take a look at the slide deck to dive deeper into the findings and a blog post on the first batch of findings. Check out the Afterschool Alliance’s interactive map on the Engage Every Student website for examples of how pandemic relief has been supporting summer learning across the country.

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